For The Last Time, Birth Control Pills Don’t Cause Abortions!

Hello once again dear readers, and welcome back to my crusade (yes, I’ve broken down and recognized it’s an actual crusade) against the misinformation being spread by 1Flesh. This post will discuss the absolutely LUDICROUS claim that oral contraceptives can cause abortion (SPOILER ALERT: THEY CAN’T!). 

As always, paragraphs in italics are taken directly from 1Flesh’s site.

Enjoy!

CAN HORMONAL CONTRACEPTION CAUSE ABORTIONS?
 

First and foremost, there are LOTS of different types of hormonal contraception. In this article, however, you only talk about oral contraceptive pills (OCPs), so let’s stick with that, k? 1Flesh, If you want to go over other types in the future, let me know.

Quick answer to their question, though? No. If that’s all you need to know, feel free to skip the rest of this. If you’re interested in snark and gifs, keep reading. 🙂

The current attitude to the suggestion that certain birth control pills can effectively cause the death of a new human life is justified skepticism, verging on anger. It is, after all, a heavy claim to make, and the wonderful people over at Jezebel and Salon are right to mock the blitheness with which many in the pro-life movement have referred to “abortion pills”. Still, we need a little honesty here. [emphasis mine]

OMG. Honesty? Please to be seeing this post, and this one, and this one, and this one, and this one, ad nauseum, for misinformation (aka dishonesty) by 1 Flesh.

Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let’s move on and see what less than fully honest statements we might find today.

We know from studies such as the 2007 “Changes in measured endometrial thickness predict in vitro fertilization success” that the thickness of a woman’s endometrium — the lining of her uterus — determines the likelihood of the successful implantation of an embryo.

Yes, yes it does. But something tells me y’all didn’t read the full study to see what threshold limits the authors discovered would impact implantation rates. Luckily for us all, I’m HUGE on reading full studies.

From the article, “An EMTDay6of < 6mm was found to have a significantly lower implantation rate (17.8% vs. 33.3%) P <.01, RR= 0.51 [.34, .77]…compared to EMT of  ≥ 6mm.” Further, “EMThCg of <7mm was found to have a significantly lower implantation rate (11.9% vs. 28.6%) P <.01, RR= .042 [0.20, .085].

What does this tell us? That the threshold for successful implantation is around 7mm on the day of implantation.

Oh, and just for funsies, the authors also discovered that, “No significant threshold was found for pregnancy termination rates.”

Given that information, I think this more recent study on OCP use and endometrial thickness – Effect of Long-Term Combined OralContraceptive Pill Use On Endometrial Thickness – is of some importance. The authors in this piece determined that while long-term combine OCP use of more than 5 years could possibly impact optimal endometrial growth, OCP use of less than five years did not. Further, the mean endometrial thickness of women in the study who had used combined OCP use for five years or more was still 8.81mm, above the threshold of 7mm that scientists and medical professionals consider necessary for successful implantation. Even woman who had been using combined OCPs for 10 years or more had a mean endometrial thickness of 8.48mm, again above the minimum threshold for successful blastocyst implantation.

If an embryo — a living human by all characteristics  – does not implant, it is passed out of the uterus in what’s popularly called a miscarriage, or a spontaneous abortion.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Stop right there, 1Flesh. You’ve got your medical terminology wrong here. First, embryos don’t implant. Blastocysts implant. A member of the human species in utero is not termed an embryo until AFTER implantation.

Further, a pregnancy does not occur until implantation. And a miscarriage (aka a spontaneous abortion) CANNOT occur if there is no pregnancy. Fin.

(Actually, I think this section answers the question of whether or not OCPs are abortifacients – THEY’RE NOT – but I’ll soldier on to see what other misconceptions I can correct).

(If you’re interested, this study also showed that oral contraceptive use also altered the qualityof the endometrium, the markers associated with “endometrial receptivity.”)

The authors of this 2003 study in Human Reproduction (conducted seven years later) would beg to differ, as regards the impact of oral contraceptives on αvβ3 (the marker you refer to above). And given that this was a prospective rather than a retrospective study, and wasn’t based in an infertility clinic (with how many other confounding variables), it is infinitely more reliable.

Next?

We’ve know for quite a while that the use of oral contraceptives has the capacity to thin a woman’s endometrium. The 1997 study “The effects of monophasic and triphasic oral contraceptives on ovarian function and endometrial thickness” found that “endometrial thickness in OC users was significantly smaller than in controls”, that is, than in women who were not using oral contraceptives.

Ah, but the study didn’t find that endometrial thickness was so low that it would impact implantation.

Also, hmmm….a 1997 study versus a 2012 study. I wonder which one has the more up-to-date information on the impact of the use of more recent generations of OCPs…

A 2001 study of one the most popular oral contraceptives on the market, Yasmin, found that:

After 13 cycles of medication use the endometrium had an atrophic appearance in 63% of the subjects. The size of the glands, the glandular epithelial height, and the number of glands per square millimeter were already significantly reduced after 3 months’ use. Histological and ultrasonographical evaluation of the endometrium indicated a suppression of the proliferative activity of the endometrium.

In short, the same was found: Oral contraceptives have the effect of thinning the endometrium.

And, again, there is no proof Yasmin reduced endometrium thickness levels below the threshold needed for successful implantation.

It seems we can say with accuracy that oral contraceptives, insofar as they thin the endometrium, increase a woman’s likelihood of spontaneous abortion if she conceives.

Oh, 1Flesh. You and your logical fallacies. No, you CANNOT say that with accuracy at all. First, as stated above studies have not found that women on OCPs have endometrial thickness levels below that which would impact implantation. Second, you cannot have a spontaneous abortion without having a pregnancy. And without implantation, there can be no pregnancy. And third, oral contraceptives have absolutely NO impact on an established pregnancy (read: once implantation has occurred).

So is it possible to conceive while using oral contraceptives? Sure. If used perfectly, taken at the same time every day, 3 in a 1000 women using oral contraceptives will still get pregnant within the first year of use (WHO). Obviously, perfect use is, well,perfect, and thus extremely unlikely to be practiced by human beings. In reality, 8 out of 100 women using oral contraceptives get pregnant within the first year of using.

Actually, it’s 9 women in the first year for typical use (again, you need to update your data sources). Also, it’s not “in reality” – it’s with typical use. FFS, if you’re going to talk about these issues, learn to use correct terminology. Further, oral contraceptive failure rates are significantly tied to the type of oral contraceptive used. Studies on the use of continuous oral contraceptives, for example, have shown a 0% to 0.007% failure rate.

If ovulation occurs despite the use of oral contraceptives (which can happen) and the ovum (egg) is fertilized

You know what’s awesome about this? We can almost entirely fix this problem!

Researchers have determined that the risk of progression of follicular development to an ovulatory state is based upon follicular development at the point at which oral contraceptives are started. Women who follow a “Sunday Start regimen” are more at risk of having follicles fully develop, and therefore ovulation as they wait seven days from the start of menses to start taking active pills. To prevent such occurrences, some researchers are now suggesting that we switch to a 1-day start method to prevent follicular development from reaching a stage at which ovulation might occur.

Pillows be dangerous, yo.

So, for now, it CAN happen, but pregnancy from such an occurrence happens to only 3 out of every 1000 women for cyclic contraceptives, 8 out of every thousand women for extended-cycle contraceptives, and about as often as needing emergency treatment within the next year from being injured by a mattress or pillow for continuous cycle OCP users, which is to say, 1 out of every ~2400 or so women. (No, I’m not joking about that last bit).

And, again, oral contraceptives DO NOT have ANY impact on an established pregnancy.

(creating a new human life)

If you mean an entity that is human, yes. If you mean a human being…eh, consensus is definitely out on that one.

Andplusalso, I thought y’all told that blogger that you weren’t a “pro-life” organization? Methinks that may have been a fib.

the effect oral contraceptives have on a woman’s endometrium could certainly cause an abortion.

FALSE. Again, you cannot have an abortion if you are not pregnant. Oral contraceptives have NO impact once a pregnancy has begun. Even emergency contraception (higher doses of the hormones used in oral contraceptives) has NO impact once a pregnancy has begun. Ergo, NO ABORTION.

 As far as we know at this point, it would be a rare occurrence, but still a possibility. 

Nope, not a possibility at all. Please to be seeing the information above.

Obviously this won’t matter to those who do not know that the embryo is a new human life. But to others it might.

First, again, zygotes and blastocysts are not embryos. Second, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t believe that a human zygote or blastocyst isn’t human, or that it’s not alive. Whether or not it is “human life” is dependent upon what is met by human life. If you mean human entity, of course it is. If you mean human being…well, again, there is no consensus on that, so it’s not something that one can “know.”

And as far as things that matter to others? I’d say facts and the truth are at the top of that list. So you might want to work on those.

Till next time,

– H

© Heather Parker and Antigone Awakens, 2012-2013.

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5 thoughts on “For The Last Time, Birth Control Pills Don’t Cause Abortions!

  1. Pingback: No, Plan B STILL Doesn’t Impact Implantation | Antigone Awakens

  2. Robert Simpson

    Pro-life advocates, of whom I count myself, do not define pregnancy as an implanted blastocyst. We maintain that pregnancy occurs at the instant of conception (recognizing that the complete intermingling and re-assortment of spermatozoic and oocytic DNA into 23 paired chromosomes is a state that occurs shortly after the male and female gametes make contact, typically in the one of the two fallopian tubes). This definition (with the exception of the parenthesized qualifying comment related to gametic DNA) of pregnancy was universally understood by health care professionals until the early 1960s at which time, for reasons that are self-evident, a number of physician and women’s health care-related agencies decided to re-define the term into its modern formulation, that is: pregnancy is said to occur at the point in time corresponding to successful blastocyst implantation – typically within the endometrium but very occasionally within other epithelial structures; the mesothelium of the peritoneal cavity for example.

    The definition of pregnancy, in and of itself, is irrelevant. The semantic notion that the term “pregnancy” inheres is not relevant. What matters is this: If human life is created at the moment of conception, does that individual have any rights similar to those enjoyed by other individuals in our society who no longer live within an intrauterine environment? Any honest person will acknowledge two things: First, there currently is no means by which we can determinately know when human life begins and, second, wherever human life exists, it ought to be accorded the very same rights and protections extended to every other person. If we truly value human life to the extent that such life has a right to it, and given that we cannot know when human life begins, it is therefore morally (and logically) necessary to impute the assumption that human life begins at the earliest conceivable point for fear that assuming otherwise will result in the ultimate transgression of human rights – unjustified killing.

    This is the crux of the pro-life position (though many in the pro-life movement will disagree with the assertion that we do not know or cannot know when human life begins; an appeal to the authority of Biblical scripture strongly supports human life occurring prior to or at the instant of conception).

    The pro-life position recognizes the existence of the potential tension between the rights of the unborn person and her/his mother, that they may conflict. Ultimately, the right to life is ascendant to one’s right to reproductive autonomy, even in cases of incest or rape. It is therefore incumbent upon the pro-life community to provide every and all reasonable services, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and otherwise, to women who might attempt to use an abortifacient or undergo an elective operative abortion. This means, regardless of the circumstances that resulted in pregnancy, pro-life advocates must be willing to open-up their churches, their homes, their families, themselves, and their pocketbooks in service of these women who find themselves in crisis, arguably the most agonizing exigency an individual can ever face (and I would argue, on moral grounds, that society has a similar urgency to invest in the lives of these women).

    These are the bare facts. Anyone implying that the impetus behind eliminating access to abortions as being nothing more than a subterfuge designed for men or the church or any other entity for any purpose other than to protect the rights of human life is direly ignorant of the motivation that animates the pro-life movement and its advocates. Anyone attempting to exploit this issue for person or political gain has committed an abominable act.

    Now is the time for all of us to be honest about the real issue. Demagogues and obscurantists have had their day; they need to move to the side and make room for compassion, love, reason and respect.

    Robert Simpson
    Lethbridge, Alberta

    Reply
  3. Dot

    Well Robert, women count. A fertilized egg relies on a woman to live. You’ve taken women out of the equation, logically, scientifically and spiritually.

    Terminating a pregnancy is not a torturous decision for most women. The #1 emotion women feel after an abortion is relief. It could be mixed with other emotions, but across the board, people feel relief.

    Reply

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